It’s that time again, the latest installation in my Year of Whole Grains. We’re nearing the end of the series, and I would be remiss if I didn’t include humble rye. On the occasion of this special grain, I invited Courtney Woo to guest post today. She’s a recent college graduate, a registered dietitian-in-training, and has been working as my intern this fall. She did a bang up job writing, photographing, and helping to develop the recipe for this post. A year from now, she’ll be a registered dietitian herself, so keep your eyes out for her!

Year of Whole Grains: Rye
By Courtney Woo 

What better way to embrace the crisp weather of autumn than to celebrate the grain that thrives in a cold and wet climate? The Year of Whole Grains series continues this month with rye, officially dubbed “Miss November.”

This hearty grain hails from Eastern Europe, where it remains a staple even today. Originally, it was thought to be a weed because of its rapid growth. Farmers have since come to appreciate its prolific nature. Historically, rye was primarily eaten by peasants, enjoyed as a hearty bread. Unbeknownst to the nobility, the lower classes were benefiting from the abundant nutrients in rye.

Rye bread’s distinct flavor is just one of its enticing factors. It also offers fiber for healthy digestion, iron for a strong immune system, and a  multitude of antioxidants, which aid in preventing cell damage. It is also an immensely satiating grain.

Best Rye Bread

The recent interest in everything whole grain often translates to products in the marketplace labeled “100% natural.” But this is sometimes little more than savvy marketing. Look past the label when buying rye bread. Take a peek at the ingredients list to see if the first one is whole grain.rather than “enriched wheat flour”  with caramel coloring. Typically, rye bread is a lot denser than wheat, especially German and European-style breads. These are some heavy loaves, which can make for heavy lifting when you’re out grocery shopping.

Like many other grains, Rye can be purchased and used in a variety of forms, such as berries, flakes, cracked, and flour. If you’re opting for a meal with texture, then give rye berries a go. They maintain their nutritional value because they haven’t been stripped of the germ and bran.

Today’s recipe relies on hearty, dense rye bread. Like many European-style sandwiches, it’s served open-faced, with the ingredients layered on a single slice of toasted rye. The smoky fish stands up to the deep, nutty flavor of the rye, offset by the avocado and crisp cucumber. It’s great for breakfast, lunch, or snack.

If  you want to do some additional experimenting with rye, check out this Raisin Rosemary Rye Bread which relies on rye flour, or this Rye Berry Salad with Orange Vinaigrette., both from Cooking Light.

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Tartine on Rye

This open-faced sandwich is reminiscent of what you might find in a cafe in Northern Europe. Enjoy it with a cup of tea and a good book or with your favorite company. You can wow friends with a sandwich that is pretty sophisticated looking , but takes just minutes to prepare. Don’t worry; your secret is safe with me.
Servings 1 tartine


  • 1 slice dense German-syle rye bread that's about 3 1/2 inches by 4 inches
  • 1/3 medium ripe avocado
  • 1/2 lime
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 to 5 thin slices English cucumber
  • 2 thin slices smoked salmon
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon capers


  1. Toast the bread until crisp. Dense rye bread is moist, so will take longer than standard wheat bread.
  2. When the toast is done, use the back of a fork to gently mash the avocado on top. Squeeze a little lime juice over the avocado and a small pinch of salt.. Lay the cucumber slices over the avocado followed by the smoked salmon. Finish with a few cracks with a a pepper grinder. Top with the capers.